Author of Beautiful Girl Fleur Philips speaks with us about her novel, believing in love at first sight, and the pressures of Hollywood.
About ‘Beautiful Girl’
Melanie is 17 years old and she’s stunning. It’s a blessing and a curse. Her mom controls her life, dragging her to auditions whether Mel wants to or not. Nothing will deter her mother.
Except when Melanie gets into a car accident that leaves her scarred. Her mother whisks her away to Montana, far from the prying eyes. Mel’s mother is devastated, but Melanie finally feels normal.
Those feelings only increase when she meets Sam, a Native American boy to whom she instantly has a connection. Sam struggles with taking care of his drunken father, but something truly special also surrounds the family. Read our review.
Interview with Fleur Philips
Tell us five interesting facts about yourself.
1) As a third grader at Spring Creek Elementary School in Rockford, Illinois, I won an all-school writing contest for my first official book, Misty’s Adventure.
2) When I was six months old, I was operated on for an abdominal hernia. You can still see the scar today.
3) I have two middle names. My full legal name is Fleur Susan Benedikte Philips.
4) I have a cameo appearance in the Steven Speilberg movie Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
5) I have a crazy infatuation with Neil Diamond.
What inspired you to write this story?
I moved to Los Angeles in 2001. Realizing how close I was to Hollywood, I decided to venture into acting in order to familiarize myself with the screenwriting side of the business. I spent several years doing background acting work, taking acting classes, and learning the do’s and don’ts of the industry. I met a lot of people determined to be the next “big thing” in Hollywood. The experience was enlightening, to say the least. I was left with a very bitter taste in my mouth about Hollywood, especially in regards to young men and women — what they were exposed to, what was expected of them, and how these exposures and expectations impacted their lives, in predominantly negative ways. I also met a lot of parents of young actors and models, and I was shocked by the behavior of many of them.
Why did you choose Montana as the setting?
I grew up in a small town in Northwest Montana. I have an affinity for the state and all of its beauty. But it took moving to Los Angeles for 12 years for me to truly appreciate its splendor — not just its beauty, clean air and water, its sparse population; but the inner peace I felt living there. There’s something truly special about visiting Montana, and, in my opinion, Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. I really believe people who go there for the first time are forever changed. When I thought about Melanie and what she needed, I couldn’t think of a better place for her to go.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Absolutely. I believe in destiny. I believe we are all on a set path, and I believe the people we meet in life are people we are meant to meet, both good and bad. Most importantly, I believe there is one person out there for each of us, and when we meet that person (IF we meet that person), there is an exchange of energy that can only be felt between those two souls.
What made you decide to put in a little bit of the supernatural into an otherwise strikingly realistic story?
I’m not so sure I consider it supernatural. I grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation. In school, Montana history and Native American history were taught. I also took a Native American Literature class in college. The Native American culture has always been an interest of mine, mostly because I grew up in Montana where there’s a large Native American population. They have a strong connection to Mother Earth and an appreciation for animals — an appreciation that goes beyond just beauty. Many of the stories told by Native American ancestors are as much real as they are folklore, at least in the eyes of the storyteller. Much like my belief in love at first sight, I believe in the power of the mind and the spirit. If you believe in something strong enough, who’s to say it can’t happen?
How does this book differ from your previous ones?
I tend to write about real life issues related to teens. Both Crumble and Beautiful Girl tackle tough topics, so there’s a similarity in their content. More than anything else, I feel I have improved as a writer since my first novel, I Am Lucky Bird. I owe much of this to my graduate program at Antioch University in Los Angeles. I take more time reaching into my characters rather than writing on the surface, but there’s always room for improvement. The biggest complaint I hear about my writing is that I need more character development, so I take that criticism very seriously and continue to work on it.
What’s easier, writing the first line or the last line?
Definitely the first. In fact, I think I’ve written over 100 first lines, but I’ve only managed to come up with 3-4 last.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I am currently rewriting my first novel, I Am Lucky Bird. I’m not changing the story at all. I really feel it’s a wonderful book, but as I mentioned above, I have improved as a writer, and I would like to take what I have learned and make I Am Lucky Bird deeper and more powerful. Of the three novels, I have the strongest connection to it — maybe because I spent the longest amount of time writing it, and it’s my debut. I feel a need to enhance it, as much for myself as for those who read it and loved it. I have also started a fourth young adult novel about a girl dying from cancer. I haven’t had a chance to work on it much in the past year, but a recent request from a high school classmate whose 12-year-old daughter passed away last year has made me revisit it.
About the author
Fleur Philips is an award-winning author who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Montana. Her first novel, I Am Lucky Bird, was selected as a General Fiction Finalist for the 2011 Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Reviews. Her second novel, Crumble, was named Young Adult Winner from the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival and was selected as a Young Adult Fiction Finalist by the 2013 International Book Awards. Additionally, Crumble is a Silver Medalist in the 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in the category of Young Adult, Mature Issues. Most recently, it was named a YA Fiction Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards from USA Book News. Fleur lives in Whitefish, Montana with her son.